Few foreign travelers have explored China as deeply as myself, Agness, and my travel partner Cez from etramping.com. We lived in China, teaching English for a few years, but have also visited many of China’s major capital cities. Unfortunately, the only time many people will get to visit China will be on business trips, most likely to one of the major cities of industry. Fortunately we have been to most of the larger Chinese cities, so follow this advice on how to squeeze in some sights in your limited personal time!
Preparation is key
For those who have not lived in China, and are only coming on business for a few days after a 15 hour flight, the most important thing I can tell you is to prepare for your body to betray you. Pack all the over-the-counter life givers that you would want at your worst. You’ll want something for headaches, stomach issues, sinus pressure, allergies, food poisoning, the list goes on. Another good item to have on hand is a medical mask (or a pack of them), because unfortunately the pollution in the major cities can be biblical. If you can’t find one before you leave, they are sold at almost every convenience store once you land.
You want to have everything you need within an arm’s reach, just in case you start feeling off, because nothing is worse than trying to hunt all these items down in a foreign country like China, and your free time will be especially precious on business trips.
Time Saving Technique
Let’s talk about eating. Cez and I love foodie adventure as much as any traveler, but our travel advice for business travelers is different. For you, room service will be your BEST FRIEND. Ordering a big breakfast first in thing in the morning gives you so much more flexibility for the rest of the day. You can eat while you get ready, and by eat I mean EAT. The goal is to put off hunger for as long as possible, so you don’t have to stop and hunt down food while you are out in your free time. Stuff rolls in your bag, fruit in your pockets, bottles of water in your coat, snack and drink between outings, and go, go go.
Another thing to keep in mind, for those who have not lived in China and are not used to the food, eating at the hotel is the best way avoid food poisoning. It’s unfortunate, but it does happen.
Keep destinations local
China’s major cities have hotel districts, which is probably where you will be staying and working. You will probably need to be on call at a moment’s notice, so it’s best to stick to attractions nearby. Fortunately taxis are incredibly cheap, just always remember to business cards from the hotel, so you can easily find your way back if anything happens to your mobile phone.
Chances are you will be traveling to either Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou. Fortunately all of these cities are full of amazing attractions within easy reach of the financial neighborhoods, making it easy to squeeze in some sightseeing if you find yourself with a free morning, afternoon, or evening.
In Beijing, seeing The Forbidden City is a must, which is conveniently located in the heart of the city. If you have a free morning, a half day or even a slightly fuller day: go. Skip the tours, skip the audio guide, and go alone or with a trusted coworker that can walk fast and with purpose. Get as much in a possible before duty calls. Another great option would be the Temple of Heaven, conveniently open until eight o’clock at night.
Shanghai is China’s financial heart, pumping, flowing, crowded, and lively. Sightseeing can be a rush here, so much action to absorb in so little time. Nanjing Road, conveniently close to all major hotels, captures the full thrill of life in Shanghai, even if you aren’t shopping and just there to people watch. Also a short walk from your likely hotel is The Bund on the Pearl River. Shanghai’s entire skyline will be laid out in front of you. For a more mysterious and historic quick trip, The Jade Buddha Temple is a stellar choice. It’s usually open at eight am local time, making it easy to slip in before a morning meeting.
Located in southern China, Guangzhou is subtropical and lush, so some of the best sights in Guangzhou are outdoors. A great park in the city center is Yuexiu Park, filled with statues telling the legendary story about how Guangzhou was founded by five fairies riding five rams. At the center of Yuexiu Park is Guangzhou Museum, so if you head to the park before or after a meeting, you can kill two birds with one stone, a park and a museum! And if you have an evening free then head to Canton Tower. It’s a tourist attraction for sure, but who wouldn’t want to ascend a rainbow tower?
What were destinations were conveniently close to your hotel?